Check Up: Alcohol Use
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Check Up: Alcohol Use

Many people experienced isolation, joblessness, and other major stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to cope, some increased the amount of alcohol they drink. Once someone starts using alcohol to help deal with the stress in their lives, it can be difficult to stop. National Alcohol Awareness Month, held every April, is a good opportunity to reflect on changes to your drinking habits and get help.

You are not alone. In both national and state data released in 2021, more people reported drinking greater amounts of alcohol at one time or drinking more often. A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration noted a 14 percent increase in the frequency of alcohol consumption among adults in 2019 and 2020.

Over use of alcohol is a serious problem. Despite being fairly common, drinking too much has both short-term dangers and long-term health risks. After even one incident of heavy drinking, people are more likely to suffer from injuries, violence, and alcohol poisoning. Drinking regularly increases the risk for developing chronic diseases and addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use kills more than 95,000 people in the United States each year.

Researchers estimate, by the year 2040, this pandemic-related increase in alcohol use will cause 8,000 more alcohol-related liver disease deaths, 18,700 additional cases of liver failure, and 1,000 more liver cancer cases. If the current trends persist, we could see 19 – 35 percent increase in alcohol-related mortality.

It goes beyond the individual and into the community. Drinking too much can damage fundamentally important family relationships and hinder employment. According to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, excessive alcohol use costs the U.S. economy up to $200 billion a year.

Assess your intake. Over one million people have taken a quick quiz at alcoholscreening.org—a project of the Partnership to End Addiction—to understand their drinking patterns and take action. After a few quick questions about how much you drink and how often, the site gives you an assessment of your health risks and recommends limits for safe drinking. The site also offers support by text to help you reduce your consumption or abstain.

Help is available. The Vermont Department of Health’s VTHelplink.org, alcohol and drug support center, provides support, resources, and services for substance use concerns and mental wellness by phone or online chat. It is free, confidential, and available to individuals concerned about substance use and their families. You can talk with a person directly or connect online. Call 802-565-5465 or visit the website.

It’s a great time to re-assess our behavior, connect with resources, and work within the support systems available to build healthier habits for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Jeffrey Kellogg, PA-C, is a primary care provider at SVMC Pownal Campus, part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care, both in Bennington.

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